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California Bar Exam Guide

Overview

Concidered the toughest bar examinations in the United States, California's version of the test is held twice a year, in February and in July. The grueling test lasts 3 days in a row, is designed to pass ~60% of the takers, and does not have reciprocity with other states.

Schedule

Each of the three consecutive exam days consists of two 3-hour sessions separated by lunch-break. Time allocation within sessions is up to the taker.

Format

The Bar Exam consists of two sections: written and multiple choice (MBE). Laptops with special software can be used for the written section. MBEs use scantrons.

What score is needed to pass?

To pass the bar, one needs a total scaled score of at least 1440. This score encodes in itself a person's raw scores for each section of the test and the necessary adjustment (i.e. scaling) such that 60% are guaranteed to pass.

Of course, there are many ways to pass the bar. Scoring high on MBEs can offset low performance on the written section and vice versa. Or, you could pass with a balanced approach by doing similarly well on both sections.

We have created a California Bar Exam results map that can help you plan a studying strategy or evaluate your previous scores. Just plug in raw scores for each section to get and idea of how close they are to passing.

Grading

Raw Points

Each problem on the test gets raw points. A set of people, graders, read answers to all the written questions and assign scores. MBE questions are graded by a machine.

Essay Every essay is graded out of 100 raw points at 5 points increments.
The score of 65 is generally considered good (often refered to as "passing").
PT Graded same as the essay, out of 100 raw points.
Except, these points will end up worth double when computing totals.
MBE Each correct answer gets 1 point. Incorrect answer gets 0 points.
In other words, there's no penalty for guessing.

Section Totals

Total raw points are computed per section. PTs count for double.

Written Add raw points for all essays and PTs, except PTs scores count for double.

Essay Points   = E1 + E2 + E3 + E4 + E5 + E6
PT Points      = (PT1 + PT2) × 2 Note the doubling of PTs!
Total Written  = Essay Points + PT Points
MBE Points for each question are simply added together.

Total MBE = Q1 + Q2 + ... Q200

Scaled Total

This is where the written score and the MBE score are adjusted/scaled and combined for each bar exam to create a the total scaled score.

Scaled Written = scale( Total Written ) Scaling differs with each bar
Scaled MBE     = scale( Total MBE )     Scaling differs with each bar

Total Scaled Score   = (Scaled Written × 65%)  +  (Scaled MBE × 35%)